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Published:Saturday | December 28, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Auditor general raps early childhood project for faltering on finances

The Early Childhood Development Project has come in for strong criticism from the auditor general for lax financial controls and failure to pay over statutory deductions to the relevant authorities.

The development project, a programme of the Early Childhood Commission, did not pay the employer's portion of National Insurance Scheme and National Housing Trust contributions related to teacher salary subsidies paid to early childhood practitioners.

The outstanding balance as at March 31, 2012 was $90 million, the 2013 auditor general's report stated.

The project also failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that practitioners were removed from the payment cycle upon separation from early childhood institutions. This resulted in practitioners being overpaid sums totalling $1.74 million during the period under review. Additionally, the commission has not recovered $6.4 million from practitioners for overpayments made in prior periods.

NEED FOR STRATEGIC PLAN

The Early Childhood Development Project was established out of the recognition by the Early Childhood Commission of the need to develop a national strategic plan for the sector.

The programme hoped to improve child development through a number of initiatives, including enhancing the quality of early childhood institutions and the strengthening of early childhood organisations.

With a US$15 million contract signed in June 2008 between the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank, it was expected that the project's objectives would have been achieved by September 2013.

The report says weaknesses were observed in fixed asset management and information system controls and the payments process.